Psychological Safety Newsletter #41: Weight Lifting and Experimentation

Training, Workshops, Exercises and Tools

Psychological Safety Newsletter #41: Weight Lifting and Experimentation


Welcome to the psychological safety newsletter and thanks for subscribing. You rock. This week includes weight lifting, communities of practice, feedback loops, incidents and experiments. Enjoy, and have a fantastic day!

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This newsletter is sponsored by Conflux.

Conflux is the leading business consultancy worldwide helping organisations to navigate fast flow in software. We help organisations to adopt and sustain proven, modern practices for delivering software rapidly and safely.

Blameless post-mortems are a common practice in IT, but are we really making the most of them as opportunities to learn, or has it just become something that we do out of habit? In this article, Sophie Weston, Principal at Conflux, looks again at the reasons for holding post-mortems, explores what goes into making a successful post-mortem, and explains why the blameless bit really does matter.

Psychological Safety In the Workplace: This is a fantastic blog article from John Obelenus, about psychological safety in the context of a weightlifting gym! Through the creation of a shared protocol for behaviour, and consistent approach, people found a safe space where everyone helped each other: “By the time they’ve been in the gym for 30 minutes they have seen many folks spotting one another. They know they can ask because others have demonstrated its safe to ask. They have seen a person squatting 315+ spot someone with 135 on the bar. It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how long you’ve been here—you help spot people.” There are some great takeaways in this piece, whether you’re running a gym, a tech team or a hospital.
Think Remote are a female-majority team of writers who provide the world with quality, timely news, and content centred around the practices and challenges of remote work. Here’s an excellent piece about fostering psychological safety in remote teams, and makes the key point of being conscious about being inclusive. They mention many of the practices that I’ve highlighted before, but I particularly like that they raise the importance of building in slack, or buffer time. In a subsequent newsletter, I’m going to dive deeper into this aspect. 🙂

 This is an incredible resource: Communities of Practice (CoPs) are a really powerful way of sharing expertise, building great practice, and empowering people. Applied in organisations, they’re powerful approaches to creating psychological safety across multiple team boundaries. This (lengthy and detailed) playbook from the European Commission consists of guidance, good practices and interactive visual boards. It covers eight success facets that allow you to develop, engage and empower a community at every stage of its journey. 

“Let me tell you about a mistake I made.” – this is a super little Twitter thread from Matt Lerner about David Marcus and his time at PayPal.

Psychological Safety Theory, Research and Opinion:
One of the most interesting things about psychological safety is the positive feedback loops we see with mediating practices, such as pair programming. Dragan Stepanović walks us through the dynamics of co-creation in software, and the power of the positive feedback loop in psychological safety.

 Here’s a great paper (a Masters Thesis) by Thomas Djupsjö, from the Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland. Thomas studied the ability of, and prerequisites for, organisations to adopt an experimental approach. Through addressing effective organisational structures, psychological safety, analytical thinking, leadership, and employee empowerment, it is possible to develop a culture of experimentation and drive sustainable business growth
Things to do and try: I shared a great article from Nora Jones of in issue 33 (how psychological safety is fundamental to learning from incidents), and here is an incredible resource from Jeli about the “how we got here process” (or “Howie process” for short) – learning from incidents and carrying out post-incident investigations.

Listen to this episode of Troubleshooting Agile where Jeffrey Fredrick and Douglas Squirrel (of “Agile Conversations”) explore the seemingly mad world of mob programming (20 people and 1 keyboard?!). They discover how these “co-creation” techniques can help increase psychological safety and reduce errors.

“Everything is an Experiment” stickers are back in stock! I can ship them basically anywhere in the world, but delivery might be a little slower to some locations 🙂 Buy some and stick them on your laptop, tablet, car, office window, or use as a template for a tattoo.
This week’s poem:
How To Get There, Michael Leunig

Go to the end of the path until you get to the gate.
Go through the gate and head straight out towards the horizon.
Keep going towards the horizon.
Sit down and have a rest every now and again,
But keep on going, just keep on with it.
Keep on going as far as you can.
That’s how you get there. 

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